The Language of Building | Don Kunz


In Chiang Mai, Thailand,
Outside the Royal Llanna
Hotel, we wait, volunteers
From China, South America,
England, Vietnam, the States,
Gathered after breakfast eggs,
Corn flakes, coffee, curry,
Wait to climb up the backs
Of dented pickups rumbling
From the Night Market,
Toyotas’ hauling beds capped
To screen us, their foreign cargo,
From cold monsoon rains,
Fitted with teak benches
Where we will sit wearing green
Paper masks to cut the fumes
Of diesel exhaust, listening to the
Horn-filled whizz of rush hour,
Escaping into green fields,
Pointing at Brahma herds,
Smoke trees, lemons, mangoes,
Chattering about concrete block,
Rebar, the one fifteen five
Ratio of cement, sand, water
We will mix with hoes in plastic tubs
To make mortar thick as oatmeal
And carry in bucket brigades
To raise walls straight and plumb,
Or how the family that will live
Within them, frame windows,
And speak in smiles, wais,
Clasped hands, a shared,
Muted language, outside walls,
Reminding us of the tiny
Birds in wooden cages that ring
The Royal Llanna Hotel parking lot,
Where we now stand waiting,
In the company of weathered
Men and women, beggars,
Who can no longer build
Anything but snares and cages
To catch and hold small birds,
And whistle toothless smiles
When, for luck, we pay them
Thai Bhat every morning to free
Brown sparrows fluttering, rising,
Carrying songs into the wet
Thick air above the Ping River,
Like murmuring clouds,
Building and rebuilding,
Above the green rippling water.

 Don Kunz taught literature, creative writing, and film studies at the University of Rhode Island for 36 years.  His essays, poems, and short stories have appeared in over sixty literary journals.  Don has retired to Bend, Oregon, where he writes fiction and poetry, volunteers, studies Spanish, and is learning to play the Native American Flute.  He has served on Habitat for Humanity Global Village Builds in Guatemala and Thailand.

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